Well we discovered that Easyjet doesn't do transit and that it pays to read the fine print on your tickets. Not rocket science really but we are often a tad relaxed about our travels and this caught us off the hop. As we were almost 3/4 hour late arriving into Gatwick and had to scurry through immigration , which really is something that you CAN NOT do. Then discovered we were flying out of South terminal, after arriving in North, which was a little silly off us. But the blood was well and truly pumping through the veins and we were a few degrees warmer than everybody else around us by the time we checked through and met David and Jude.
We're off to Italy to re visit some old haunts but see it through new eyes.
Rome has, and always will, hold much fascination with its almost 3,000 year old history and glory. Known as one of the worlds most photogenic cities, the list of sights to see and places to enjoy are just endless.
From the ancient ruins, to the many ornate architectural masterpieces, often filled with spectacular works of art, to the stunning Palazzos filled with people and energy.
The quirky arty type of areas like Travestere to the modern retail areas with all the designer shops, and not forgetting the colourful noisy markets scattered throughout. Few parts of the city showed any signs of the financial challenges Italy is going through, the skyline was dotted with cranes and construction, yet as we walked out of the railway station we were amazed at the number of homeless people sleeping in cardboard boxes.
The variety of architecture was fascinating, from the Classical and Imperial Ancient Rome of the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and Circus Maximus through the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance style of St Peters Basilica. Covering the Baroque era with some of the most famous squares like the Piazza Navona, Piazza de Spagna (Spanish Steps) and the ultimate in Baroque style, the Trevi Fountain. Through to the Neoclassical designs, most well known and unmissable being the huge Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Such diversity throughout the city, it was awesome!
We had five days here and the walking shoes we're on and we covered some country. The necks were sore from swiveling to and fro - the feet were sore, the batteries were constantly dying (that's both the camera batteries and ours!). The brollies were out in force a couple of times as we got caught in some amazing thunder and lightning storms. But generally the weather was mild and glorious - high teens with a spot of sunshine to make everything look that much brighter and more inviting.
We drank many coffees and David and Jude were over heard to say " the best creamiest, smoothest Cafe Latte we've had since NZ" !!! We ate pizza, panini's, delicious focaccia bread sandwiches with their wonderful pancetta, salami, prosciutto, cheeses and olives. And we soon discovered that you stand at the bar like the locals, drink your coffee and eat your panini. Otherwise you pay dearly for the privilege of placing your bum on a seat. We even succumbed to the decadent looking mountains of Gelato. We abstained for the first week, but late one evening in Florence we were wandering the streets and soon found ourselves devouring a delicious bowl of gelato - David Lines hit he jackpot with the Intensely dark (almost black ) chocolate flavour.
The traffic is Rome is absolute chaos and it seemed even worse than I emembered 30 years ago. But I was driving amongest it back then and it this time was just a spectator and it all looked chaotic. There are more cars per capita in Rome than any other European city, they don't think twice about hoping in the car to drive short distances and as we noticed usually leave it on the pavement, double park or tow away areas without much worry. Mind you scooters and bikes, which a new generation seem to be turning to, look faster but are even more precarious. The majority of cars have the odd dent or scrap but how they even survive with only that small amount of damage I'll never know. The honking of horns and gestictulating must wear you down after time - for us it's new and mildly amusing although you certainly take you life in your hands as you cross the road, using a pedestrian crossing or not.
Sunday morning 11.55am saw us in a crowded St Peters Square, just in time to receive the blessing from the Pope. We, and around 100,000 others, watched him wave out from his upstairs window and listened to his message, sadly couldn't understand a word, but had to assume it was good as there were lots of smiles and happy families around us. A memorable Sunday morning.
Travestere was a delightful find with its quirky shops,cafe's and trendy bars nestled in amongest its narrow winding streets, piazzas and some of the oldest churchs in the city. Known originally as a working class neighbourhood on the west side of the Tiber River, this medieval village still holds its old charm of quiet cobblestones streets with faded paintwork, washing hanging between buildings and flowers brightening the area as they cascade over balconies and down the sides of walls. With all the students wandering this area you knew there had to be a Uni somewhere and I gather the nightlife is even better than the day.
And finally it wouldn't be a trip to Rome without a wander through St Peters Bascilica, centre of the Catholic church worldwide . Jude convinced us the queues weren't really that long or more to the point were moving quickly, and she was right. I think the beauty lies in the wonderful Renaissance architecture outside but once in you really are totally dazzled by this the largest and richest church in this city, of amazing churchs, which is full of spectacular works of art.
The sounds of the city were a delight, quietness is not something you find in Rome, Italians don't seem to do anything quietly. Everybody seems to talk endlessly ( I'm still not sure who does any listening!!) but cell phones certainly are there to be used and theyre out in force. The site of those large families dining together noisily is so wonderful. The flamboyant gestures that seem to accompany their conversations and their great sense of style was all there to be enjoyed.